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School Physical Activity: Policy Matters

Monica A.F. Lounsbery

For children, schools play an important role in providing and promoting physical activity, yet growing school pressure to produce academic achievement gains have limited the priority of physical activity producing programs. The Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association, and others have developed recommendations for school physical activity policy and there is growing interest in examining the relationship between existing school physical activity policies, school practices, and physical activity. Given that research on school physical activity policy is in its infancy, my goal in writing this paper is to introduce readers to key aspects of school physical activity policy while simultaneously outlining existing research efforts and highlighting the many critical research gaps that still exist. I conclude the paper by linking policy to advocacy and outlining considerations for formulating effective advocacy efforts while emphasizing the need for advocacy research.

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American Kinesiology Association’s Role in Promoting School Physical Activity Policy

Monica A.F. Lounsbery and Thomas L. McKenzie

This paper reviews the authors’ evolution as kinesiology scholars to a public health focus via their research on school physical activity (PA) and policy. The authors present key findings from their work, including their recent focus group discussion with 20 school leaders, to substantiate their perspectives about the role that the American Kinesiology Association could play in supporting public health goals and promoting school PA policy. The authors conclude the paper by appealing to American Kinesiology Association to clearly identify PA and its promotion as a central area of study in kinesiology, strengthen its ties to public health, and advocate for putting the “physical” back in the National Physical Education Standards.

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Physical Activity in High School Physical Education: Impact of Lesson Context and Class Gender Composition

Nicole J. Smith, Monica A.F. Lounsbery, and Thomas L. McKenzie

Background:

Physical education (PE) is recommended as a source for physical activity (PA) and learning generalizable PA skills. Few studies have objectively examined high school PE, specifically its delivery, including PA, lesson contexts, and class gender composition.

Methods:

We used the System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time (SOFIT) to assess PA during 6 lesson contexts in 47 boys-only, 54 girls-only, and 63 coed lessons from 7 high schools. MANOVA assessed differences based on class gender composition.

Results:

Actual lesson length was 27.7 min, only 65% of the scheduled length of class periods. Students engaged in moderate-vigorous PA (MVPA) 54% of the time, with boys being more active than girls. Game play was the most dominant context (47%), and little time was allocated to knowledge and skill development. Class size, lesson length, PA, and lesson contexts all differed by class gender composition (P < .001).

Conclusions:

Many differences in the conduct of high school PE are related to class gender composition. Boys accumulated more MVPA than girls. When held, PE lessons contributed about 25% of recommended daily PA minutes; improvements could be made by increasing allocations to fitness and skill practice and reducing transition and management time. Teacher professional development is warranted.

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Adolescent Gender and Ethnicity Differences in Physical Activity Perceptions and Behavior

Soojin Yoo, Monica A.F. Lounsbery, Tim J. Bungum, and Julie Gast

Objectives:

To examine gender and ethnicity differences in adolescents’ physical activity (PA) behavior and perceptions.

Methods:

Surveys designed to measure PA behavior and perception were completed by 175 adolescents. Gender and ethnicity differences in PA behavior were examined using chi-square tests. A two-way between groups MANOVA was used to examine perception.

Results:

No significant differences were found between gender groups for PA. Caucasian students were more likely to be active and to perceive that PA makes their health better. Hispanics were more likely to perceive that PA requires more time than Caucasians.

Conclusions:

Findings suggest greater consideration be given to the ethnic orientation of PA behavior antecedents when promoting PA to adolescents.

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Correlates of Physical Activity Among Hispanic Adults

Timothy J. Bungum, Melva Thompson-Robinson, Sheniz Moonie, and Monica A.F. Lounsbery

Background:

Health behaviors of minority populations, including Hispanics, are important from a public health perspective because this subpopulation is growing and health behaviors of this subgroup are understudied. Physical activity is a component of healthy lifestyles and Hispanics have been shown to be less active than are Caucasians. It will be necessary to know correlates of physical activity to enhance the physical activity of this group. Recently, the importance of environmental and cultural factors has been recognized as correlates of physical activity behavior. The purpose of this study was to identify environmental and cultural correlates of physical activity among Hispanic adults.

Methods:

A 52-item telephone survey was employed to assess physical activity and its potential correlates.

Results:

The sample included 175 females and 156 males. Respondent ages ranged from 18 to 82 years (x = 38.39 ± 15.0). Approximately 20% of respondents were assigned to a “higher physical activity” group. Predictors of being in this group were having supportive environments, being acculturated, attending some college, and age.

Conclusions:

Providing environmental supports may be an effective strategy to enhance physical activity levels of adult Hispanics. Older Hispanics, those with lower educational attainments and those of lower acculturation should be targeted for intervention.

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Facilitators and Barriers to Adopting Evidence-Based Physical Education in Elementary Schools

Monica A.F. Lounsbery, Thomas L. McKenzie, Stewart Trost, and Nicole J. Smith

Background:

Evidence-based physical education (EBPE) programs have increased physical activity (PA) by as much as 18%, yet widespread adoption has not occurred. Understanding school facilitators and barriers to PE should prove useful to EBPE dissemination efforts.

Methods:

Pairs of principals and PE teachers from 154 schools (75 Adopters and 79 Non-Adopters) from 34 states completed questionnaires. Differences between Adopter and Non-Adopter schools were tested using t tests or Wilcoxon Signed Rank Tests and chi-square analyses.

Results:

Principals and teachers reported distinct PE curriculum adoption decision making roles, but few viewed themselves as very involved in program evaluation. Teachers in Adopter schools were more satisfied with PE program outcomes and had greater involvement in teacher evaluation and program decision making. Compared with teachers, principals were generally more satisfied with their school’s PE program outcomes and did not share the same perceptions of PE barriers. However, principals also demonstrated a general lack of PE program familiarity.

Conclusions:

To facilitate EBPE adoption, dissemination efforts should target both principals and PE teachers. Increasing principal’s knowledge may be instrumental in addressing some teacher perceptions of barriers to PE. Strategic advocacy efforts, including targeting policies that require PE program evaluation, are needed.

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School Physical Activity Policy Assessment

Monica A.F. Lounsbery, Thomas L. McKenzie, James R. Morrow Jr., Kathryn A. Holt, and Ronald G. Budnar

Background:

Physical activity (PA) levels in schools vary widely, and there is interest in studying how student PA accrual relates to school policy and environmental conditions. School PA policy research, however, is in its infancy and generalizable measurement tools do not exist. We developed and assessed reliability of items on the School Physical Activity Policy Assessment (S-PAPA), an instrument designed to assess school PA policy related to physical education (PE), recess, and other opportunities.

Methods:

To develop items, we perused associated literature, examined existing instruments, and consulted school policy makers. For test-retest reliability assessment, 31 elementary school PE teachers completed the survey twice, 14 days apart.

Results:

S-PAPA uses open-ended, dichotomous, multichotomous, and checklist formatting and has 3 modules: 1) Physical Education (47 items), 2) Recess (27 items), and 3) Other Before, During, and After School Programs (15 items). Responses to more than 95% of items were highly related between Times 1 and 2. Generally, physical education and recess items had fair to substantial levels of agreement, and items about other school PA programs had fair to perfect agreement.

Conclusions:

Test-retest results suggest S-PAPA items are reliable and useful in assessing PA policies in elementary schools.